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October 19, 2020: Jakob Hettinga, YEX student via Zoom from Belgium     Jakob's Trip Blog

President Bill turned the meeting over to Judy Cochran who welcomed the Fish Creek Club and former YEXers: Emma, Margot and Laura.

Judy first met Jakob Hettinga at RYLA and when she noticed his name come up for YEX she thought that he would be amazing. Jakob left for exchange in the summer of 2019 with sponsorship from Fish Creek and Calgary West clubs to experience his year abroad in Belgium after graduating from Western Canada High School. Now Jakob is back in Belgium studying chemistry at the University of Brussels after his return to Calgary over the summer. Today Jakob will present a short synopsis of his year abroad in Belgium.

Jakob Hettinga presented from Brussels, Belgium, at 8:30 p.m., and shared his connection with Calgary West by working on Homes of Hope in Mexico, attending RYLA, and was excited about doing a Gap Year in Belgium after graduating and before starting university.

He shared slides from his new life in a new country, slides with his host families, and many of their excursions. He talked about differences between schools in Canada compared to schools in Belgium and different teaching styles. Notably, one difference is the significant division in Belgium, where it is divided between Dutch and French populations. You know you are on the Dutch side in restaurants right away because of the language spoken.

Jakob shared some adventures with food, mussels and fries being one. Jakob highlighted adventures with his host family to Paris; mushroom hunting in the forest; special Christmas lights and Christmas markets. He also was able to visit London, England, for more Christmas markets.

The new year began with a change in host family where now he was right across the street from school, so no bussing! He celebrated Carnival, fireworks and "flying oranges." He travelled to sites from WW2, and his eyes were opened to how WW2 impacted Europe. There was a huge Climate Change Rally (he's passionate about this) and he met Greta Thunberg, and was surprised at how small she was, almost child-like.

He met with other international YEX students and was impressed by one of Rotary club's French lessons. Rotary connections definitely helped him assimilate into the country. Unfortunately his exchange ended abruptly due to Covid restrictions and planes being cancelled everywhere. (He shared a slide showing all the cancelled flights.) Jakob flew back to Calgary at the end of March.

Jakob is extremely grateful to Calgary West for this huge opportunity that has definitely changed his life. He's now back in Brussels studying chemical engineering.

Judy thanked Jakob, stating that he showed us his love for Belgium and the impact YEX has made on his life. Judy said, "You are an excellent ambassador for Rotary, for your community and Canada. You have taken on quite a challenge going to university in Belgium and learning a foreign language. Wishing you the best in the future!"

reported by Debbie McMillan

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